This article is part of our Yahoo DFS Hockey series.
The second round of the NHL playoffs begins at 7:00 PM Eastern time Thursday. Action will kick off with the latest chapter in the Penguins-Capitals rivalry, then the Sharks will visit the Golden Knights later in the night. Owners looking to get off to a hot start should target and avoid the players below…
Braden Holtby, WAS vs. PIT ($32): Holtby's undefeated as a starter this postseason, as he ripped off four consecutive victories to send the Blue Jackets packing after Columbus opened that first-round series with a pair of road wins. While the Penguins have given him trouble in the past, owners will be hoping his 22-7-2 record, 2.41 GAA and .921 save percentage at home in the regular season will translate to further postseason success for Holtby. The 2016 Vezina Trophy winner is much better than anything the Flyers had to offer in net, so don't pay too much mind to Pittsburgh's offensive explosion in the last round. Plus, the Penguins will be without their best offensive player – Evgeni Malkin (lower body) – in Game 1.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Martin Jones, SJ at VGK ($35): In the conference quarterfinals, Jones easily handled a Ducks offense that ranked 19th at 2.82 goals per game during the regular season. He's facing a completely different beast here, however, as Vegas hasn't lost a playoff game in franchise history and ranked fifth with 3.27 goals per game this season.
Tomas Hertl, SJ at VGK ($17): Hertl earned praise from coach Peter DeBoer for his fabulous performance in the first round, marking the scoresheet in every game while lighting the lamp in each of the last three. The 2012 first-rounder finds himself skating in a top-six role and on the No. 1 power-play unit, so he's primed to maintain his success in Round 2.
CENTER TO AVOID
Derick Brassard, PIT at WAS ($17): As the third-line center in Pittsburgh's top-heavy lineup (even with Malkin out), Brassard hasn't gotten as much playing time as you'd expect from a $17 player. He skated just 14:07 per contest against the Flyers while contributing 1.8 or fewer fantasy points in half of those six games. Brassard's role isn't expected to grow in this series with Riley Sheahan skating in Malkin's spot for now, which doesn't bode well for his fantasy value against this much tougher opposition.
Jake Guentzel, PIT at WAS ($21): Guentzel continues to remain an excellent alternative for owners who can't afford Pittsburgh's most expensive forwards, especially since he's outplaying those guys. While his four-goal outburst in Game 6 didn't come without controversy, that's still an incredible accomplishment that somehow didn't raise Guentzel's price. He has 19 goals and 34 points in 31 career playoff games, so Guentzel's no stranger to postseason success.
James Neal, VGK vs. SJ ($13): Neal continues to be exceptionally affordable despite his scoring ability and roles on the second line and second power play. With a goal, an assist and a team-high 17 shots in Round 1, the veteran sniper was a key component of that four-game sweep over the Kings. Among wingers priced at $20 or less in this slate, only $12 teammate David Perron averages more fantasy points than Neal's 6.1 per game.
WINGS TO AVOID
Timo Meier, SJ at VGK ($18): It's surprising to see Meier priced above Hertl considering he failed to break 15 minutes of ice time in any game during Round 1. Even if you're a fan of the Czech winger's game, it's best to wait for his price to drop before using him, as the value just isn't there relative to San Jose's more established forwards.
Patric Hornqvist, PIT at WAS ($25): Hornqvist got on the scoresheet in every Round 1 game he played, but he missed two contests with an upper-body injury and only skated 15:07 in his Game 6 return. That extra injury risk is enough to sour the Swedish power forward's value at $25, especially with no shortage of alternatives in his price range on the Penguins.
Olli Maatta, PIT at WAS ($15): Maatta's played some excellent two-way hockey recently, mustering two assists and a plus-6 rating in his past three games. With three other Penguins blueliners priced above him, he could prove to be a nice low-cost difference-maker here.
Nate Schmidt, VGK vs. SJ ($13): Speaking of low-cost difference-makers, Vegas' blue line is teeming with players that fit that description. One such option is Schmidt, who costs just $13 despite averaging more fantasy points than any other defenseman priced at $16 or less. He racked up over 24 minutes of ice time in every game during the first round, so Schmidt's getting no shortage of opportunities to put his excellent two-way game on display in the playoffs.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
Matt Niskanen, WAS vs. PIT ($17): Niskanen had an assist and 12.9 fantasy points in his last game, but he still has just three helpers without a goal in his past 12 appearances and that was his first time scoring 8.0 or more fantasy points over that stretch. It makes more sense to target Niskanen's teammate Dmitry Orlov, who costs $1 less and is coming off back-to-back performances with double-digit fantasy points.
Brent Burns, SJ at VGK ($29): Burns was slowed by an undisclosed injury in the conference quarterfinals, averaging just 4.5 fantasy points over the final three games even with his team largely dominating. Until he shows himself to be healthy this round, it's tough to justify pouring $29 into the bearded blueliner.